The current administration is determined to ease access to home ownership by building housing estates and working with private developers. But Mr Babajide Alade, Managing Director of Structuracasa, a private property development and construction outfit, in this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, submits that the first step to ensuring home ownership is to ease access to land titles.
WHAT is the vision of Structuracasa?
The vision of Structuracasa is, in a nutshell, the democratization of home ownership in Nigeria. In more detail, our mission is to enhance the quality of life in modern African societies by providing improved access to home ownership through affordable, high quality housing solutions to meet the needs of the mass market. We do this through propagating policy ideas and innovative construction solutions related to housing.
There is no doubt that one of the major challenges facing Nigeria and other African countries is the provision of modern housing facilities. We have taken it upon ourselves to collaborate with the authorities to make the dream of home ownership by many Nigerians a reality.
What do you mean by democratization of home ownership?
The word is from democracy, which basically means the involvement of everyone. So, by democratization of home ownership, what we mean is that we make home ownership possible to everyone who desires to own a home.
How do you do this?
We do this by coming up with projects tailored at different income brackets. We have houses for the top earners, we also have for medium income earners. The fact is that there is no one who cannot own a home if they have the desire and are willing to make a little sacrifice. So, it is our belief that everyone who wishes to own a home can have their wish come true.
Is the company just into property development or is it also involved in construction?
Structuracasa is involved in more than just development and construction. While these are the visible aspects of our work we are also involved in incubating design and policy ideas that can help unlock the latent value in the housing sector. We know huge economic multiplier effects that can be created through an efficient housing market.
What determines where you locate your projects?
We work both up market and down market. We are currently working in Ibadan. Primarily in GRA areas because of land title issues and the current projects we are doing are targeted at diaspora residents who don’t want the hassle of dealing with defective land title “omo onile” issues.
We have plans to embark on lower cost progressive housing developments for the middle income earners in the states we work in, which are currently all in South West Nigeria.
What facilities are available in your properties and estates?
The primary thing we focus on first is a good title. Any prospective client of ours can be sure they will receive impeccable land title. The ultimate value of a property rests on the accurate and valid legal representation of the land upon which the structures are built.
Our estates have varying level of services depending on where they are located. Typically we would have security as well as infrastructure such as paved roads, water supply, good drainage and electricity power networks in place. Some higher end estates have fully serviced environments which also include back up power solutions, piped gas and amenities such as swimming pools and other recreation facilities.
What special offers do you have for your clients?
We have a few interesting offers to ease the buying process. For example at our Legacy Estates, Kolapo Ishola GRA project we offer a variety of building prototypes as well as serviced plots for people who would like custom designs. We also have structured payments plans for plot and house purchases. People who pay outright receive discounts on the total purchase price. A few innovations we are currently offering include “warm shell” construction. Warm shell is where we finish the carcass of the house and exterior completely but leave interior final finishes like flooring, plumbing, lighting, cabinets and painting for the homeowner to install their custom choices. This not only lowers the purchase price but also allows homeowners to express their taste and carry out the finishing at their own pace.
Do you have an arrangement with the FMBN or any other primary mortgage institution with a view to making it easy for your proposed clients to buy your properties?
We have several informal arrangements with banks and primary mortgage institutions where qualified buyers can obtain mortgage financing for their home purchases. In addition we offer an interim solution called our “Developer Mortgage” which allows buyers to pay 50 per cent of the price of a house and take possession and pay the balance, with interest over the following two to three years in equal monthly installments.
Is it possible for those who buy properties from you to resell same?
We do not have restrictions on resale as long as the new buyers are made to understand all the rules and regulation governing the estates they buy into. Passing all the information along is the responsibility of the selling party.
What are the challenges facing the housing sector in the country?
I think the key challenges that have continued to plague the housing sector in Nigeria have been very well documented. These include; Access to serviced or serviceable land with clean title at reasonable costs, exorbitant financing costs for both construction and mortgage loans, and encouraging self help and formalize progressive housing using localized building materials.
How do you think the government can make houses more affordable for the majority of Nigerians?
Policy changes regarding modern land registration and titling systems that allow proper documentation and consent to be obtained at a reasonable cost, in a reasonable time frame, that is done in a transparent manner. This will go a long way in forming a good foundation for housing development because it will ease a lot of the burden related to property financing.”
Do you think it is wise to invest in real estate in a recession?
The best time to invest in real estate is at the bottom of the cycle. There are more opportunities to buy property at reasonable prices during recessionary periods and hold on to property to sell when the market is at the peak of the cycle.